I left Krasnoyarsk after a terrific time at the Durbanova household, situated in a residential complex along the banks of the Yenisei river. Natalia Durbanova spoke good Hindi and had just returned from a five year career in India. She had met me at the Russian Cultural Centre in Mumbai and had invited me. She and her mother gave me a lovely welcome and right from a Banya to a 70 km motorboat ride, I had a super time. At my departure moment she gave me aloo ki sabzi and rice, as a bye bye cookout! It was delicious. The neighbors too had invited me for a dinner.
When I had entered Krasnoyarsk it was cold and terribly windy and as I left it was sunny and nice. I was headed towards Novosibirsk, or any halt on that route. At some point of time the sunny feel vanished and clouds gathered together. At first loose cotton balls in the sky, they soon converged to create some meaningful activity. The drizzle started. I could get an idea of the game plan and I got ready to soak. I had taken off the thermal and windcheater layers, since it had become rather hot. To put it back on meant to open the luggage. A difficult decision. I decided to continue and topped up as I finished 150 km. Feeling uneasy, I put my navigator on. The drizzle stayed light and continuous. I could see, in the distance some part of the sky give a pounding with rain showers. But that was in the distance and I was far from it. Until the road curved towards it. Ever so gently. Menacingly. Before I knew what had happened, I was in the middle of a thunderstorm. Complete with lightning and wind gusts, this was the showstopper. I lost internet. I lost my attention. I didn’t see the signpost that I could now understand. At a fork I took the good road and I entered farm land area. Emerald fields, all in the thunderstorm and me riding along them. Trucks and trailers came to deliver produce and threw 16 wheels of water from their tyres in my face. A head wind took care of my stability and the trailer crossing me added to the wind confusion. I was getting tugged and pulled in all directions. The road was not too wide and I didn’t dare to stop. I had to ride at a minimum of 60kph else the headwind and trailer vacuum would stall me. There was no shelter. The signposts now didn’t have any familiar destination. The visibility was low and made ride decision making difficult and scaring. There were long stretches of road without a turn. No options but to keep moving. No establishments to talk to. The internet came back on to tell me I am on an unknown road. I already knew that. It couldn’t fix a route to Novosibirsk. So I followed the GPS marker to a main highway and got to it after 100km of offroute riding. As I got to the highway, I spied a motel. Actually there was nothing to spy. It was the only establishment as far as the eye could see.
I got in and saw the thunderstorm that worsened as I left the road! Improving to zero visibility, it didn’t let me ride for another day. My riding gear was soaking wet. I put everything to dry. Highway travellers, all stuck on account of the thunderstorm, huddled together. In zero visibilty all I could see was headlights moving. I was not riding. Lucky. Friends were waiting for me in Novosibirsk and they asked me not to move. I didn’t. This was a different experience of Russia. I have done enough monsoon riding in India and it didn’t worry me. But this was different. I I guess I needed to experience everything.
A day later it cleared up and I rode under a brilliant sun to a short halt at Novosibirsk.
Cafe Little India is a Gaurav Mehra enterprise and he gave me a sumptuous lunch to make me feel nice. I met the Indian community, who were here for 25 years, most marrying locally. My friend of a friend, Ruchier Kapoor took me to a post lunch stay and I did. These short rides would eat into my visa time, but couldn’t be helped. I could make up and I did.
The next day under a beautiful sky, I rode 650 km in 11 hours to Omsk.